Have You Ever Seen A Shark With Frickin’ Laser Beams? – An Interview w/ The Lazer Shark

*written by A’Damaged Pro for Electronica Life

What do you consider getting appropriate “bang for your buck” at an event? Is it having all of your favorite artists in one lineup or being exposed to new music? Is it face-melting production value and sound that rattles you to your very core? With the progressive notoriety and expansive path of the global EDM scene, a struggle persists to determine which reigns supreme in the battle between sights and sounds. Who better to ask on the subject than the man responsible for the sights, behind the sounds, of Pretty Lights?
In this age of ever-increasing technology, coupled with event-goers’ need for a “wow factor,” production value can be what separates a “show” from an “experience.” Before assumptions begin and this piece might approach being one-sided, please afford me the opportunity to declare that my affinity for lasers and mind-bending visuals does not stifle my belief that beautiful music is fully capable of standing alone and transporting the listener, without any addition of production elements. I would like to take a look at the mind responsible for orchestrating the visual spectacle that is synonymous with the music of Derek Vincent Smith aka Mr. Pretty Lights. The man behind the light show that is half astral projection and half epileptic bliss goes by the moniker “The Lazer Shark,” but you can call him Greg.

A’Damaged Pro – How did you get introduced with PLM?

The Lazer Shark – Phil Salvaggio (sound engineer) and I grew up together in New York. We went on separate journeys. Phil made it out to Colorado around 2005/6, I believe. I was in Connecticut, back then, working small-time lighting gigs and experimenting with my style. After Phil met Derek, he called me and told me that we have a really cool opportunity coming up. It’s pretty amazing that Phil saw the potential when Derek was still playing for, like, 300 people.

A’Damaged Pro – What were your first experiences working with Derek like?

The Lazer Shark – I first met Derek in 2009 and the rest is history. When I first started working for him, I was his VJ and I absolutely hated it. I’m old school, but I’m still a professional. I did my job. I stumbled along and did it my way and then something big happened. The time came for me to take over the light show. As I started to get more comfortable with the situation and our bond strengthened, our mutual trust grew. The music worlds integrated and our styles came together. It’s really cool that we have this type of unspoken communication. It’s even cooler that we use it during shows, even though we can actually talk to each other. People do realize how much fun we have together though. It’s visibly apparent.

A’Damaged Pro – How do you approach concept development?

The Lazer Shark – My approach is pretty simple. It’s all progress as long as we just keep moving forward. It doesn’t matter if we go bigger, brighter, or smaller. It doesn’t matter. Just keep moving forward. A few years back when the laser thing became more prevalent in our show, I was unhappy overall with the setup. Light Waves (Mike) and I had a laboratory play date. I took the ball and ran with it. We brought in the LED towers in 2011. We tweaked things and changed them up in 2012. In 2013, we took out the video. For the “Analog Future” Tour we introduced the, now iconic, outlined risers for the stage.

A’Damaged Pro – What’s your take on the role production plays in a PL show?

The Lazer Shark – I think with this kind of music it’s best to keep it more traditional like a rock-n-roll show. It can be an assault on the senses with all the extras. We’ve happily established the middle ground of bigger lasers and a focus on the music. I feel the lasers should be used as an accent piece. I think of it as a sort-of “bounce-back” kind of thing. There’s a big look, with tons of lights. I hit ‘em with the lasers, and then it’s back to the focus, which should always be the music.
A’Damaged Pro’s final words…

I find it quite remarkable that “The Lazer Shark” can be so humble about being responsible for something that so many classify as more than just an aesthetically stimulating addition. At the same time, his attitude that beautiful music should be the primary focus, above all else, reinforces a positive attitude and core elements that are at the foundation of Pretty Lights Music. I’ve always been a sucker for a good light show so I do find it difficult to remain impartial, but the unparalleled power of music is something that can’t be denied. As long as your ears and your mind are open to receive the melody of a soothing symphony, it’s of no consequence if you’re in a brightly-lit arena or alone in a dark room; however, I’m happiest when the perfect abundance of light and sound choose my brain to converge.